Past Midnight Thoughts on Writing Magic

The magic in my book is not quite so visually appealing like it is in Fantasy TV. It doesn’t have big electric shocks and things magically bursting into flame. 

When my witches cast spells, they don’t see the flames grow bigger. They don’t see sparks flying out of their hands. They need to have faith that the spell had the desired effect. And they can’t always see it or feel it directly.

Davina lights a candle by magic on The Originals

At least, that’s what I imagine it feels like when they cast. Because I, the author, get to control the casting, and I get to draw a direct line to the outcome. I get to say, hey readers, check it out, she made a prediction in chapter x and look it came true in chapter y! Isn’t that magical?

And to be honest, it feels like cheating. I feel like a fraud. I feel like a liar. I’m just putting on a good show using slight of hand and telling my readers it magic, when really I just swapped out the cards and I’m hiding the old one right behind the new one to make it look like it changed color…

…and that is a very strange feeling.

A Kiss of Life and Death

There was once a young man who was dying, in one way or another.

And as his lungs heaved with the effort of breathing, and his heart beat tediously on, Death came to sit with him and hold him in her arms. She laid his head in her lap and stroked his hair and brushed away his tears with an edge of her black velvet cloak.

He listened to the waves crashing on the shore, and he wondered what it would be like to die.

a kiss of life and death cover

As Death whispered comfort in his ear, he asked her. “Will I be alone when I die?”

Death gazed at him from beneath her velvet hood, and shook her head. Her skin was pale and silken, framed with silvery-blond hair, and her ample lips were painted black. She said, “When you die, everything will be alright. You will be in a garden of eternal sunlight, where darkness can not reach. You will be free of pain and discomfort and all limitations of the flesh. You will be surrounded by love and joy and calmness. You will drink from the fountain of the angels. You will rest and be free of all your burdens. And your soul will be in a state of absolute peace.”

The young man sighed as Death’s words tumbled lightly across his consciousness. Death is kind, he thought. Death is my friend. There is nothing to fear from Death.

But something tugged at his comprehension and he was pulled away from sleepy oblivion. With his eyebrows knitted, he looked up into Death’s ashen face and asked, “If death is so wonderful, why would anyone ever want to stay alive?”

Death looked down and met the young man’s gaze, and for a moment he thought she looked sad.

“I can not answer your question,” replied Death. “But I think I know someone who can.”

Death looked out at the sea beside them and lifted her palm in front of her, and blew. A cloud of sparkling, green dust billowed into the wind and drifted onto the surface of the water.

The sea began to churn. The ocean rocked. A raging whirlpool twisted in the deep, and from it emerged a force of nature, tall and formidable, with shimmering brown skin and emerald eyes, and black curls cropped close to her scalp. In her ears were gold studs that held dreamcatchers, and she wore a dress made of thin cotton, with multicolored shapes that wove into vibrant patterns as it clung to her form. Her nails were painted gold, and as she stepped onto the sand, the young man saw that her feet were bare.

She was Life.

When Life saw the young man lying in Death’s lap, her eyes grew wide and in a flash she was beside him, grasping both of his hands. Tears were streaming down her face, glittering as they caught the light of the setting sun.

Then Death spoke to her.

“Get a grip on yourself,” said Death. “Can you answer his question?”

Life hiccupped and looked into the pale face of her oldest friend. She looked out over the ocean and breathed a sigh.

“Alas,” said Life. “I can only share with you what others have told me. I can spin you a thousand tales of truth and wisdom but none would reveal the answer you seek.” Life turned her gaze back to the young man, and brushed a hand across his cheek. When she touched him, it was the warmth of nostalgia, familiarity, and old, old love.

“Tell me anyway,” said the young man. 

Life nodded, a wry smile showing beneath trails of her dried tears. She took a deep breath, and recited:

The dead can not shake a whole world from its sleep,
The dead can not leave prints in the sand;
The dead can not alter the course of the earth,
The dead can not take a stand.
A dreamer can dream, only if they can wake,
One can learn only if one can try;
To create, one must also be able to err,
To love, must be able to die.

The young man listened to the poem, and as he did so, his breath became slow and relaxed. The sound of Life’s voice had calmed him. As death wiped sweat from the young man’s bangs, he tried to wrap his mind around what he had just heard.

He looked at Life, and she was looking at him, her eyes twinkling, expectant. He shook his head. “I don’t understand.”

Life replied, “It matters not. Every individual has their own reasons for choosing life. I could give you all the reasons I have ever heard and yours would still not be among them.”

He shivered as he felt the brush of Death’s fingers at his temple. “If I do not know my reason… can I still choose?”

Life squeezed both of his hands, and nodded. Her hands felt safe, like a promise.

He was tired. And Death’s hands were soothing and loving in his hair. And there would be no more pain.

And Death was smiling at him.

The young man asked, “Why must I be the one to make the choice?”

And Death said, “You are always welcome with me.”

And at the same time, Life said, “I will never let you go, until it is time.”

Life and Death looked at each other. They both laughed. The young man glanced from one friend to the other and felt, all of a sudden, that his position was terribly unfair, and nothing made any sense, and it was wrong, so wrong, that he was forced to choose between them.

Out of nowhere, energy surged through the young man’s veins, and he got to his feet.

He looked at Life, her eyes shadowed with chlorophyll, cheeks shimmering with love, a vigorous heart beating in her chest.

He looked at Death, her pearly skin soft to the touch, her shoulders perfectly relaxed, her face calm, not a care in the world.

To Life, he said, “It is clear that you have loved me for a very long time.” He held out a hand, and she pressed it to her lips.

To Death, he reached out a hand to touch her cheek, and said, “You have been so kind to me.”

He looked at Life. He looked at Death.

How could he possibly choose?

“How many times can I make my choice?” he asked.

“Just once,” replied Death.

The young man cocked his head and narrowed his eyes at her, and her lips curled and he knew she was lying.

“No,” he said. “That is not quite true.” He took a deep breath, and looked at Life. She met his gaze with a blazing stare of her own.

“Today I choose Life,” the young man said. And Life beamed at him. 

He continued, “And tomorrow, I will choose again. And again the next day. And on every day forth that I am alive, I will be there to make a new choice. Until I am ready to choose death.”

Death raised her eyebrows and tilted her chin out to him. Then she gave him a nod of approval. She stepped forward and kissed his cheek, and that kiss marked his soul forever as one who has been to see death, but turned her away.

“When the time is right,” she whispered, “I will come for you.”

He nodded, and said, “Go in peace.”

Then Life offered him her hand, and he took it.

And side by side, they walked along the shore, as the last of the sunlight faded and the moon rose over the sea. 

And it was evening, and it was morning, and it was a new day.

Sex Education Season 2: #MeToo Trigger Warnings – A helpful guide

If you’re stoked for Season 2 of Netflix’s Sex Education, because you, like me, have been waiting a year for its release, you’ll want to get right on that. But if you’re triggered by discussions of sexual harassment and assault, you should be prepared for a major story line on this topic.

Now, I still think you should watch the second season! I’d hate for you to miss out on all the other great elements of the show for fear of being triggered. Since I personally am not triggered by this, and I wanted to watch the show twice through anyway, I’ve taken this small task upon myself. I’ve made a trigger-free watch guide in the hope of making this season possible to watch, even for those of us who have this particular trigger.

General guidelines: This guide will be most helpful if you are watching with another person who can tell you when to look away and when you can look back. However, it will also work if you’re watching alone and keep a close eye on the time.

Disclaimer: Please take everything written here with a grain of salt. These are not my personal triggers, so I can not guarantee 100% that the list I have provided will let you watch completely trigger free. I did my best but I might have missed something. I therefore encourage you to watch with a supportive friend or someone who has already watched the episodes who can help you through it and be there for you just in case.

What’s in this guide?

  1. A timeline of relevant scenes to skip, down to approximate minutes:seconds with trigger-free scene summaries so you know if there’s anything important you missed.
  2. Technical terms for the event and themes.
  3. Not trigger free: A dry, vague summary of the event and relevant issues the story raises.

If you are not sure if this particular story will trigger you, my recommendation is to have someone you trust read list element 3 above so you can suss out the severity of the event.

Additional trigger: Self Harm. There are two scenes which could be triggering because of self harm, and they are:

  • Episode 1: 32:07 – 32:40
  • Episode 6: 31:35 – 34:03


Episodes 1 & 2

  • Clear. Line begins in episode 3.

Episode 3

General guideline

for this episode there is a helpful visual to cue when you should look away and plug your ears: any time you see Aimee carrying the pink cake.

  • 2:10 – 2:30 Intro. nothing really happens yet, Aimee sees the perpetrator.
  • 3:19 – 4:15 The incident.
  • 10:49 – 11:40 Cue: You will see Aimee carrying the cake but you can wait until Otis leaves before looking away. Safe when: you see Eric and Otis in the library. Summary: Aimee tells Maeve what happened. Maeve encourages Aimee to report the incident.
  • 15:34 – 17:10 At the police station. Safe when: you see Jackson
  • 24:16 – 26:22 Visual cue: Maeve and Aimee in an interview room. Talking to the police officer.
  • 28:37 This bit is clear. You see Aimee and Maeve getting a ride home with the cops, and there’s a cute lizard.
  • 31:44 Also clear. Continuing on the drive home, Aimee and Maeve discuss other story lines from the series and it is worth watching this bit.
  • 38:19 – 40:35 Cue: in the car, the cop asks, “is this you?” Aimee arrives home. Her mom is drunk and asks Aimee about her day.
  • 43:05 – 43:35 Visual cue: the bus. Aimee’s PTSD theme begins.

Episode 4

  • 5:35 – 6:20 Visual cue: the bus. Aimee has PTSD

Episode 5

  • 6:21 – 6:50 Visual cue: Aimee getting her shoes from the closet. Aimee has PTSD
  • 23:50 – 25:14 Cue: Steve opens the door for Aimee. Aimee has PTSD. It is worth noting that Steve is a loving, supportive partner to Aimee at every step of the way.

Episode 6

  • 35:50 – 36:27 Right after Otis: “Ah ha ah ha you want some vodka.” Aimee PTSD. What you need to know: Aimee breaks up with Steve.
  • 45:02 – 45:13 No explicit mention, but you see Aimee walking home alone and she’s sad.

Episode 7

General guideline

The main trigger scenes in this episode happen when the girls are in detention. Visual to cue when you should look away and plug your ears: when you see the girls hanging around on the green couches. Not all the scenes in this setting are triggery, just the ones that happen after 29:10. Exception: the first PTSD mention does not have this aesthetic.

  • 7:14 – 7:40 Aimee PTSD. Immediately after Maeve says “Aimee guess what?”
  • 29:41 – 30:13 When Olivia says “It just got interesting.” The girls are in detention, Maeve and Ola argue about Otis. Aimee is triggered and says what triggers her.
  • 31:05 – 33:45 SKIP THIS SCENE. Cue: After Jean (on the phone): “Can I come see you?” All you need to know is: The girls all share their own personal #metoo stories. The specific gory details are not important to the overall plot lines. It’s a beautiful scene, it contributes to the show and covers a wide range of experiences. You see the girls bonding and supporting each other and expressing their strongest selves. It’s important for people who don’t know much about this, or are skeptical of the validity of the #metoo movement – to watch. But if you’re the victim? It’s not directed towards you and you are under no obligation to see more of this. Safe when: “You know who loves ginger nuts? Eric Clapton.”
  • 40:16 I think this segment is safe to watch, but here are some things you should be prepared for: Olivia delivers a fun and interesting line that includes the phrase “non consensual penises” and that’s it. Then we have the smash scene. This is worth watching in my opinion because it is empowering and cute and badass, and personally I really enjoyed it. There is one brief mention of the trigger material, and here are the cues: Aimee says “I’m angry that I’m not good at baking cakes.” And then delivers another line about Steve. Then, in her third line, the incident and PTSD are referred to: **TW** “I’m angry that a horrible man ruined my best jeans, and nobody did anything, and now I can’t get on the fucking bus!”
  • 46:47 The girls show solidarity and support each other. To help Aimee through her PTSD, they all take the bus together.

Episode 8

  • Clear. Does not contain these specific triggers.

The Event

Technical terms for what happened: sexual misconduct. Basically, something of a sexual nature happened without consent.

Summary: Aimee is taking the bus to school when a stranger masturbates next to her.

The PTSD Theme

After the event, Aimee suffers from PTSD.

She is affected in the following ways:

  • She can’t take the bus
  • Sees/hallucinates the perp in random places
  • she struggles to be intimate with Steve

If you found this helpful, please let me know. Feel free to share. If you have a time correction or something I missed, please let me know.

Enjoy all the rest of the brilliance of this show!

Soft Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are my favorite sweet thing, and I like them soft and chewy, so that’s what these are. No chunks or raisins invading my cookies. I’ve also added some of my favorite variations below.


Checkerboard – mix dark and white chocolate chips

Peppermint twist – put 1 cup of chocolate chips in a bag or container. Add 1 capful of peppermint extract (about 1/2 tsp). Shake it up and let it sit before adding to the batter.

Almond supreme – substitute 1 teaspoon almond extract instead of vanilla.


  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil / coconut oil
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons almond/soy milk
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package (about 1/2 cup) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
  2. Cream sugar into oil/shortening. Add milk and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Blend in applesauce. Then add dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in chips.
  3. Drop by teaspoon onto greased baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 8-10 minutes for chewy cookies or 10-13 minutes for crispy cookies. For extra soft cookies, take them out even if they don’t quite look done – they’ll keep cooking a bit outside the oven. Place on a cooling rack.
  4. Make a lot because they’ll go fast.

Epic Vegan Chocolate Cake

chocolate cupcake with rainbow frosting

Chocolate cake that is not too rich, light and fluffy, tasty as heck, and vegan. Bonus – no raw eggs, so you can eat the batter! It’s part of the experience.

This is the best chocolate cake in existence. Even before I started baking vegan I used to use this recipe.


  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup water OR instant coffee
  • Vegetable oil pan spray


  1. Preheat over to 175º c. Lightly grease one 9X5 inch cake pan. Vegetable oil pan spray works well.
  2. Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add the oil, vanilla, vinegar, applesauce, and water / coffee. Mix together until smooth.
  3. Pour into prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 35 minutes for cake or 22-25 minutes for cupcakes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.